Forty years ago, the leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, died

PARIS: The leader of the communist Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito , died after a long illness on May 4, 1980, just days before his 88th birthday.

There was a torrent of emotion over the death of Tito, who refused to let his Balkan country fall under the Soviet thumb and kept a federation of different ethnicities and religions together.

Here is an account of his death and funeral, based on an AFP copy of the time.

On Sunday, May 4, Tito is described as a very serious and critical condition in the last of the bulletins that reported updates on his health since he entered the Ljubljana hospital almost four months earlier.

The news of his death finally comes in the early afternoon, in a statement from the Central Committee of the League of Yugoslavia and the Presidency.

Comrade Tito is dead.

It is aimed at the working class, all workers and citizens, and all nations and nationalities of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia.

At his death, Tito only weighed about 40 kilograms (88 pounds).

He had been admitted to the hospital in January due to circulation problems caused by diabetes and had his left leg amputated, before suffering multiple complications.

The daily health bulletins had described kidney failure, pneumonia, sepsis, internal bleeding, liver damage, and a comatose state.

Television begins broadcasting a long tribute to the man who led the Communist resistance to the invaders, before founding the People's Republic in 1945.

He adopted the pen name Tito in the 1930s after five years in prison for activism in the Yugoslav Communist Party, which was banned at the time.

Educated in Moscow, at the end of World War II, he became leader of a group of nations that had lived in a state of mutual suspicion and hatred that had shattered them for centuries. Titus kept the unit with an iron grip.

The man who would be named Yugoslavia's lifelong president separated from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1948 and co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement, grouping states that advocate a middle course between the eastern and western blocs.

With a fondness for cigars and generally dressed in a shiny uniform or a white suit, Tito liked to host world leaders and Hollywood stars in their villas in the Brioni archipelago in Croatia or on your yacht in the Adriatic.

Seven days of national mourning are decreed during which songs and funeral symphonies are successively sung on the radio.

The next day, on May 5, his coffin is placed on board the official presidential blue train that travels from Ljubljana to Belgrade through Zagreb, accompanied by his two sons Zarko and Misa, so that everyone can mourn him.

The Yugoslavs line the route, many crying. The poem of devotion Comrade Titus, we will not stray from your path! sounds across the country.

In Belgrade, portraits with black borders are displayed in shop windows, along with huge red banners with slogans in his honor: Titus, your name is freedom.

Several hours before the train arrives, the crowd converges in the rain in the Yugoslav federal parliament where the body will remain in the state.

Citizens file day and night beyond the coffin covered with the Yugoslav flag stamped with a red star.

An old peasant woman wearing a black scarf, her face full of pain, genuflections, and then makes a sign of the cross in front of the coffin.

Behind her, a former member of the Yugoslav anti-fascist partisan movement, his chest adorned with medals, makes the communist salute of his youth.

Leaders from around the world travel to the funeral on Thursday, May 8.

They include Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Helmut Schmidt from West Germany, Erich Honecker from East Germany, and Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher .

The coffin is mounted on a pile of earth on the Dedinje hill, overlooking Belgrade, with the sound of the International, the anthem of the socialist movement, followed by the Yugoslav anthem. Sirens sound in every city and port in the country.

Tito chose to be laid to rest within the walls of his private residence on Uzicka street. The mausoleum bears simple words engraved in gold letters: Josip Broz Tito 1892-1980.

Both Yugoslavs and foreign visitors wonder whether the country will succeed in safeguarding its internal unity and independence.

Some fear that it will fall prey to renewed Soviet expansionism, as the USSR invaded Afghanistan several months earlier.

It turns out that Europe's communist regimes will fall one after another since 1989.

The Yugoslav federation comprising six republics -- Bosnia, Croatia , Macedonia , Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia - plunges into an economic and political crisis that will revive nationalism.

In the 1990s, it collapses in a series of wars that claim more than 130,000 lives, definitely turning the page to Titoism.